Brooklyn Bridge Park honchos: No LICH, no problem

News analysis: If LICH closes, housing towers could rise
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The impending redevelopment of Long Island College Hospital will inundate the area with new residents who will tax city services, not to mention heighten demand for a neighborhood hospital, anti-development advocates argued at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s board meeting on Wednesday.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, the body charged with administering Brooklyn’s front yard, unveiled new proposals for two luxury residential buildings at the park’s Pier 6 ahead of a meeting of its board of directors. The site is the last one up for development under the nearly decade-old plan for luxury apartments and green space.

On the agenda at the meeting was considering activist calls for the board to conduct a new study of the long-term workings and effects of the project. A politician with a representative on the board said such a study, formally overseen by multiple government agencies, is key given the changes wrought on the landscape of the surrounding neighborhood by, among other things, the closure of the nearby Cobble Hill medical center after 156 years in operation to make way for high-end housing.

“The grim reality of the LICH site across the street, is that there’s a good likelihood that there will be luxury condos included in the final plan,” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights) at the meeting. “The closure of LICH was certainly not contemplated a decade ago.”

But administrators insisted that the current plan is the only way to go.

“It’s neither appropriate nor in the best interest of the park, the city of New York, or the community for the board to direct this requested review of the general project plan,” park president Regina Myer said.

The board ultimately voted 10–3 to move ahead without an official environmental study, but opted to perform a more cursory review. Ahead of the vote, it unveiled architectural renderings from 14 development proposals but withheld details of those proposals, including the developers’ names. For the moment, though, it is hamstrung from making a final pick by a temporary restraining order stemming from a recently filed activist lawsuit.

Board to death: James and Donna Morgan’s pleas to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation board to reconsider its high-end development plan were ignored.
Stefano Giovannini

Park planners issued a request for proposals for the new buildings back in May, calling for an approximately 31-story building with 290 apartments and a second building about half as tall with 140 apartments on the two Pier 6 lots. The request also includes some below-market-rate housing and retail space.

Opponents of the current Pier 6 plans say the environmental impact statement used to generate the overall park design is outdated in given the area’s current building boom. The lawsuit cites dramatic increases in population in the neighborhoods around the park, a lack of schools in the area, environmental concerns raised by Hurricane Sandy, and changes to the real estate market that affect the park’s financing.

“We’d like the board to agree that old data makes for bad decisions,” said Lori Schomp, a petitioner on the suit.

Those concerns were also raised by board member John Raskin, who represents Squadron.

“Brooklyn has changed; the park has changed; the very local community has changed,” he said. “The world has changed and our park plan hasn’t. And that’s the problem.”

The stated purpose of building housing in the park — there are seven buildings planned in all, five of them residential — has always been to ensure that the park pays for itself. The board, as well as the park’s conservancy, contend that revenue generated by development at Pier 6 is needed to raise $200 million to fund replacing rotting pilings beneath the park’s piers.

“It represents a large portion of our financial model,” Myer said after the meeting. “And that financial model is not just about the operation of the park, but its also for the waterfront infrastructure for our park.”

Not hearing it: Park president Regina Myer and Alicia Glen, the board’s chairwoman, agreed to commission a study about whether to perform an environmental study, but that’s where the concessions ended.
Stefano Giovannini

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.